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Pick your viewing strategy

Then use these tips to help you get the most out of your tournament experience.


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000

PALM HARBOR -- With nearly 200 acres encompassing the Westin Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead course, watching the Tampa Bay Classic will be tricky if you don't know what you're doing. So, here are a few tips.

Arrive early. That will give you plenty of time to check out the vendor booths, test your putting and chipping skills at another booth and inspect the course.

On the last two days, you can arrive later because the leaders are always the last to tee off.

If it's autographs you seek, camp out near the putting green and wait for players to exit. Try to avoid asking pros to sign awkward items, such as golf balls, or body parts, such as arms and legs.

Along with a trusty pen, bring a small folding chair, an umbrella, sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen and plenty of money or credit cards (few things are free).

Leave your cell phone and camera in the car. Tournament officials will confiscate them if found.

Once you're ready to watch golf, head to the area between the No. 5 tee box and the No. 3 green. Veteran spectators at this course know this is the place to be.

You can pick your favorite player and follow him around, but make sure you are wearing comfortable walking shoes. Walking the course is equivalent to about five miles. If you choose to walk, keep up with the standings by looking at the leaderboards on holes 4, 7, 8 and 12-18.

"I like to walk," said Bob Messinger, who has been part of the operations team at the Westin Innisbrook Resort for nearly 20 years, "but a lot of people just can't do the walking."

In the shady area between Nos. 5 and 3, you will be steps from viewing the Nos. 5 and 7 tee boxes, and the Nos. 3, 4 and 6 greens. Plus, it's close to Gate 4 parking, restrooms, concession stands and a rain shelter.

Another good viewing area is between the Nos. 17 and 18 tee boxes. You will be a short walk from the Nos. 11, 17 and 18 tee boxes, and the Nos. 10 and 16 greens, as well as concession stands and big, shady trees.

If you want to see bold, jaw-dropping shots, check out the course's signature par-5 No. 14. It plays 590 yards with a double dogleg.

The boldest -- or most desperate -- pros will try to reach the green in two shots, prompting a second shot from 250 to 310 yards that tempts a water hazard on the right side just before the green.

No. 16 is similar. It's a 460-yard par 4 with a dogleg right around a water hazard that will catch even a slightly mis-hit drive.

The 18th green is a traditional favorite spot for viewing. Golf's version of skyboxes are there. So is bleacher seating.

"But you only see one shot, and it's the same shot," Messinger said. "Some people love it, though."

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